by Darrel D. Hockley
Topka Family in Saskatchewan 1897 to 1907
Mathias Dupko/Topka (surname sometimes spelled as Dopka) was baptised in 1756 at Sabinov, Slovakia, the son of Mathias and his wife Anna Dupko/Topka. In the 1790s he was living in Kozma, Fejer County, Hungary where in November of 1793 he married Anna Maria Fend (1772 to 16 September 1832, Offzenitza). Mathias died on 16 November 1855 at Offzenitza, at the age of 99 years. Their son, Johann Topka was born on 3 June 1799 at Kozma and died on 29 December 1861 at Offzenitza. Johann had married Katharina Kluch/Klug (ca. 1796 to 7 January 1861, Offzenitza) on 24 November 1816 at Offzenitza. Their son was Peter Topka (born 2 July 1828, Offzenitza and died 6 November 1860, Offzenitza). On 29 February 1848 at Offzenitza he married Margaretha Bauer (ca. 1832 to after 1912; in 1868 she married her second husband Peter Barth [1838 to 1904]).
Adam Topka was born on 4 February 1855 in Offzenitza, the son of the above Peter and Margaretha Topka. On 29 January 1878 at Zichydorf he married Barbara Schagh. Barbara was born on 11 July 1859 at Etska, the daughter of Joannes and his wife Regina (nee Becker) Schagh. They had two children: Peter, who was born at Offzenitza on 14 January 1879, and Anna, who was also born at Offzenitza on 25 October 1880.
In 1897 the family decided to leave their homeland for Canada, most likely for economic reasons. Adam and Peter first left Hungary for England. On 16 October 1897 they left the port of Liverpool on the ship the Lake Winnipeg, arriving in Quebec City on the 27th of that month. On the ship’s passenger list they stated their occupations were that of miner and their designation in Canada was Winnipeg, Manitoba. On 12 May 1898 Barbara and Anna left Liverpool on the ship Vancouver, arriving at Quebec City on the 22nd of that month with a final designation of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Very soon thereafter the family relocated to the Indian Head district in what was then in the North West Territories (now part of the Province of Saskatchewan). I am assuming while Adam and Peter lived in Winnipeg, they worked on the rail lines as maintenance personnel. When they moved to Indian Head, I assume they got work as farm labourers for settler farmers.
Meantime, two Hermann brothers from Zichydorf came from the Banat to Canada in 1898. Josef, who was born on 10 December 1877, and Michael, who was born on 24 December 1879, were the sons of Josef and Magdalena “Lena” (nee Rieger) Hermann, a farmer of Zichydorf. On 7 May 1898 the two brothers sailed from Liverpool on the Lake Superior, arriving at Levis, south of Quebec City on the 19th of that month. On the passenger lists Josef’s age was given as 30 years (he was age 20 and a half) and Michael was age 19 years. As the two were travelling together, the law was that one of the two had to be of the legal age of 21 years or older in order to board a ship. Josef “fudged” his age so him and Michael could emigrate. Josef’s occupation in Hungary was that of a blacksmith and Michael had worked as a butcher. Their point of designation was Winnipeg, Manitoba. They also moved to the Indian Head area and Josef may have worked at one of the several blacksmith shops in that community while Michael became a farm labourer.
St. Anne Roman Catholic Parish, with its church building in the Village of Wolseley, in the 1890s took in a 50 mile (80 km) radius around Wolseley. Its priest at that time was the Rev’d Jeremie Alphonse Roy (1858 to 1944) who served there from March 1890 to April 1900. He would celebrate Mass every Sunday at the parish church in Wolseley; the rest of the week he would travel within his large area by horse and buggy ministering to the Roman Catholics in their homes or mission locations.
Most probably the Hermann brothers and the Topka family knew each other back in Hungary as within eight months of Michael Hermann’s arrival in Canada he married Anna Topka. On 2 January 1899 Fr. Roy married Michael Herman (sans second “n”), age 19, farmer, of Indian Head, bachelor to Anna Topka, age 18, of Indian Head, spinster. On the marriage record Michael’s mother’s maiden name of Rieger is spelled by Fr. Roy as Rigart and Anna’s mother’s maiden name of Schagh is spelled as Shoch. The Arms of the Province of Saskatchewan serves as a “water mark” for the genealogical copy of this marriage record and covers the names of the two Indian Head residents who served as marriage witnesses. The place of this marriage is not recorded on the certificate, but since it was on a Monday and the temperature for 2 January 1899 in that district was in the minus late 20s centigrade all that day, I assume Fr. Roy travelled the 20 miles to Indian Head to officiate.
In June of 1900, the Rev’d Emmanuel Garon (1874 to ca. 1935) arrived at Wolseley as Fr. Roy’s successor. On one of his pastoral visits he discovered that Michael and Anna Hermann had a baby son born to them on 10 April 1900 at Qu’Appelle Station (probably Michael and Anna were working and living on a farm near that place) by the name of Alfred Harry. Not only was the boy unbaptised, his birth was not registered with the government. So Fr. Garon kindly got the Birth Registration Form and filled in the details on 2 September 1900 and this form was received by the Registrar for Vital Statistics on 11 October 1900. Unfortunately, Fr. Garon thought the surname pronounciation sounded like Arman so he wrote that spelling on Alfred Harry Hermann’s birth registration form and no one seemed to notice. On 12 September 1900 Alfred Harry was baptised by Fr. Garon at St. Anne in Wolseley with the Arman surname continuing the mistake.
In the Supreme Court of the North-West Territories, Judicial District of Western Assiniboia, ADAM TOPKA, formerly of Offzenitza, Hungary, now of Indian Head, Farmer … has become naturalised as a British Subject. Given under the Seal of the said Court at Regina in the said Judicial District this 2nd Day of November 1900. Signed Hugh Richardson, A Judge of the Supreme Court of the N.W.T. Entered W(ilmot) G(ordon) Haultain, Deputy Clerk, Supreme Court, N.W.T., Western Assiniboia Judicial District. Barbara, as his wife, automatically became a British Subject at the same time. Their son Peter, who still lived with them and then was a labourer, also received his separate naturalisation at the same time and place.
On 26 April 1901 at the Dominion Lands Office, Alameda, District of Assiniboia, Adam Topka filed for a homestead (file number 990439) for the NW 20-9-16-W2 and Peter Topka filed for a homestead (file number 908733) for the NE 20-9-16-W2 some three miles south and two miles east of the Village of Yellow Grass. The Topka men in May of 1901 built a house measuring 14 ft. by 30 ft. on Adam’s homestead. On the 11 June 1901 Canada Census, Adam and wife Barbara and son Peter are shown living at Yellow Grass, daughter Anna Hermann and grandson Alfred are also living in the household. The Census Enumerator, Mr. W. H. Sissons of Yellow Grass, wrongly recorded the surname Topka as Topki, Anna’s first name as Ida, Alfred’s name as Fritz (which may have been his nickname), and the surname of Hermann as Harman.
Meantime, Josef Hermann and his brother Michael in April of 1901 were working as day labourers, probably at one of the mining operations, near Slocan in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia, as per the Canada Census recorded during 16 to 19 April 1901 for the Yale Cariboo district of BC. The enumerator recorded their surname of Hermann as Harman. Josef and Michael do not appear to have applied for homesteads. I believe they were working in British Columbia to obtain money so to move back to Zichydorf and of course Anna and Alfred would go with Michael. I cannot find any further evidence of the Hermanns being either in Canada or in the USA.
In 1901, Adam broke 35 acres on his farm; in 1902 he broke a further 40 acres and seeded 35 acres; in 1903 he broke 20 acres and seeded 75 acres; and in 1904 he broke 15 acres and seeded 95 acres. In 1901 for livestock he had 4 horses, 3 cattle, and 4 pigs; in 1902 he had 4 horses, 2 cattle, and 3 pigs; in 1903 he had 6 horses, 3 cattle, and 5 pigs; and in 1904 he had 6 horses, 3 cattle, and 6 pigs. His house had a cash value of $125, his grainary built by 1905 had a cash value of $100, and his sod stable built by 1905 had a cash value of $100.
The above particulars of his homestead were recorded in Adam’s sworn statement in support of his application for the Homestead Patent dated 27 January 1905. Adam was illiterate as he signed this statement with an “X”. He received his Land Patent in the name of King Edward the Seventh dated 29 May 1905.
In June of 1902, Peter built his frame house, which measured 12 ft. by 14 ft., on his homestead. It had a cash value of $75. In 1901 he broke 10 acres of land on his farm; in 1902 he broke another 10 acres and cropped 10 acres; in 1902 he broke 10 acres and cropped 20 acres. On his sworn statement for obtaining the Homestead Patent, dated 30 April 1904, he stated he had no livestock of his own, which implies both he and his father shared Adam’s animals in the operation of their respective farms. Peter signed his statement which shows he could read and write. Probably the other two homesteaders on Section 20 – both also from the Banat – Nicholas Kronberger who farmed SE 20-9-16-W2, and his son John Kronberger who farmed SW 20-9-16-W2, also helped out the Topkas on their farms and vice versa. Peter received his Land Patent in the name of King Edward the Seventh dated 2 September 1904.
Meantime, Sebastian Jung and his family, also originally from Offzenitza, settled in the Village of Yellow Grass in December of 1903. Sebastian obtained employment as a section (maintenance) man on the Soo Line rail line which passed through Yellow Grass. He and his family lived in a house in the village. He later homesteaded southwest of the Village of Lang at SE 18-10-18-W2.
In 1903 the Rev’d Joseph Luyten, MS (1876 to 1966) became the founding priest of St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church at Estevan, with a mission field also covering the Weyburn and Yellow Grass districts, serving there until 1905.
On Monday 16 May 1904 the double wedding of Barbara Jung (1886 to 1960), eldest daughter of Sebastian and his wife Barbara, to Peter Topka and Susan Jung (1876 to 1971) to John Krumenacker (1877 to 1973) took place at the Sebastian Jung home, with the Rev’d Joseph Luyten as officiant. The two official witnesses to the two weddings were Mr. A(lbert) E(ugene) Whitmore and Mr. T(homas) Orton, farmers both of Yellow Grass.
A probable list of the other persons present at the double wedding can partially be reconstructed as follows. Peter’s parents Adam and Barbara (nee Schagh) Topka; Barbara’s parents Sebastian and Katharina (nee Giel) Jung and her sisters Elisabeth “Lizzie”, Anna Maria “Annie”, and Maria “Mary”; John’s parents Nicholas and step mother Elisabeth (nee Hafner; the former Mrs. Wagner) Krumenacker and his brother Hanas, homesteaders at nearby McTaggart; Susan’s parents Michael and Margaret (nee Gerbrich) Jung homesteaders at Parry, and her sisters Barbara and her husband Andreas Oberle and Elisabeth and her husband Stephen Schreiner and children of Indian Head and her two brothers John and Joseph Jung of Parry. Also guests at the wedding I believe were Josef and Anna (nee Topka) Graf and sons Anton(y) “Tony” and Ludvic homesteaders near Yellow Grass; Peter Krumenacker, homesteader of Vibank, widower and older brother of Nicholas, and Peter’s daughters Anna and Katharina; neighbours Nicholas and Katharina (nee Kulburg) Kronberger and John and Anna “Amy” (nee Piller) Kronberger and their daughter Anna Maria.
Most of the above wedding party were related to each other back in Offzenitza before they emigrated to Canada. Wilhelm Kilcher (ca 1764 to 1814) and his wife Apollonia Gaertner (ca 1759 to 1819), early settlers at Offzenitza were common ancestors to Nicholas Krumenacker (1853 to 1918), Sebastian Jung (1860 to 1938), and Josef Graf (1863 to before 1940). Johann Topka (1799 to 1861) and his wife Katharina Kluch/Klug (ca 1796 to 1861) were the common ancestors to both Adam Topka (1855 to after 1914) and to Anna Topka Graf (1864 to 1947). The patriarch of the Offzenitza line of the Jung family, Mathias Jung (1776 to 1859), was the common ancestor of both Michael Jung (1839 to 1910) of Parry, SK via his first wife Eva Kiefer (1776 to 1816) and of Sebastian Jung (1860 to 1938) of Yellow Grass/Lang, SK via his second wife Anna Maria Hernek (ca 1780 to 1858).
Peter’s and Barbara’s first child, a daughter named Elizabeth, was born on 15 April 1905. On 29 April 1906 a son named Johann was born but he died the next day and was buried in the Yellow Grass Cemetery.
The 1906 Census for the Prairie Provinces shows on 12 July 1906 both Adam and Peter still residing at their respective farms. On this census Adam Topka only had one horse and one milk cow; while Peter had 3 horses, 2 milk cows, and 3 meat cattle.
Sometime between July 1906 and April 1907 Adam Topka sold his farm and he and his wife Barbara moved back to Offzenitza where they died in the years after World War I. On 25 March 1907 Peter sold his farm to Mrs. Emma E. Bunnell and prepared his family to move to the USA. On 5 April 1907 Peter, wife Barbara, and daughter Elizabeth crossed the border into Portal, Ward County, North Dakota, USA.
The Topka family took up residence in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where son Karl Sebastian Topka was born on 22 January 1908 and where daughter Barbara “Bobbie” Topka was born on 31 January 1910. On 21 May 1915 Peter was granted naturalisation as a USA citizen by the Court of Common Pleas, County of Cuyahoga, Ohio. On 12 September 1918 he was registered for the military draft with “Right Arm is crippled” entered on his registration card. Peter’s occupation after moving to the USA was that of millwright. Barbara Jung Topka died on 1 November 1960 at Wickliffe, Lake County, Ohio. Peter died on 8 April 1964 at Euclid, Cuyahoga County, Ohio.
Parish records of Offzenitza stored on a CD and parish records of Zichydorf online.
Canadian ships passenger lists for 1897 and 1898.
Registration of Marriage number 153 recording the marriage of Michael Hermann and Anna Topka on 2 January 1899.
Registration of Birth number 7 recording the birth of Alfred Harry “Arman” s/b Hermann on 10 April 1900.
Homestead file No. 990439 for Adam Topka and Homestead file No. 908733 for Peter Topka, preserved on microfilm at the Saskatchewan Provincial Archives, Regina, SK, Canada.
Canada Census records for the years 1901 and 1906.
Registration of Marriage number 532 recording the marriage of Peter Topka and Barbara Jung on 16 May 1904.
Immigration record and naturalization record recorded in Volume 30, County Naturalization Records of the State of Ohio.
United States World War I Draft Registration Card, Serial Number 4245, dated 12 September 1918.
Above report compiled and written by:
Darrel D. Hockley,
Regina, SK, Canada
26th June 2023